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Chick Lit Delights by Not Coming of Age
|by Madhusree Chatterjee|
Financial journalist-turned-author Anita Jain is back to India to find a suitable husband after meeting several prospective candidates in the US.
In her new book, "Marrying Anita", launched by Penguin India in the capital, Anita pours out her heart as every "suitable encounter" flounders and she ends up single in a migrants' city with a maid to take care of her needs. But hope still burns bright.
Contemporary popular literature is increasingly reflecting the changing face of urban India as it opens up to accommodate western lifestyle influences.
The latest in this literary genre is chick lit - a colloquial term for girlie and singles books that talk about the joys, anguish, loves, hope and insecurities of young upwardly mobile professionals, mostly women, living alone in big cities.
Most youngsters, say authors and publishers alike, find it easy to identify with the genre because their lives follow similar patterns.
Moreover, chick lit novels have a fairy-tale quality where the man or the woman meets the partner of their dreams in the end - reminiscent of the Mills & Boon novels and the books written by Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer.
"I loved reading Georgette Heyer in my youth. Her stories were funny and insightful and yet so romantic. They were set so long ago and are still so relevant," novelist and advertising honcho Anuja Chauhan told IANS.
Her book "The Zoya Factor", a fairy-tale love story about a young advertising executive and the captain of the Indian cricket team, sold 20,000 copies in the first print run. According to Harper Collins, the publisher of the book, it is one of their recent success stories in the genre of contemporary literature after "Almost Single" by Advaita Kala.
"Advertising is a 60-seconds job and I wanted to spread out to a broader canvas. The book was a creative experience that allowed me the space to travel with my characters even to the MCC ground and place them there," said Chauhan, who has also touched upon the insecurities and psychological strain of rookies in advertising and their yearning for a bit of magic and romance in life.
In Chauhan's case it is Zoya, the young 27-year-old mid-level client-servicing executive from Delhi's Karol Bagh area, who meets her prince charming in Nikhil Khoda, the arrogant and good-looking Indian skipper.
"I wanted to prove the impossible over the possible, the chemistry between a boy and a girl, good old-fashioned romance and about the young urban working woman," Chauhan said. The author is writing her second book, another girlie novel, which she claims will be "better than Zoya".
Anita Jain captures the despair of the single woman and her anxious parents in her new book. "But my book cannot be called chick lit," she said. "It is a thought-provoking entertaining memoir. People in the west are interested in the idea of arranged marriages, though I don't intend to have an arranged marriage in the strict sense of the term. But they find it fascinating."
She felt Indians aren't comfortable with the truth of their relationships.
"They keep a mask on and rarely reveal their family secrets. I tried to talk about the changing urban culture - the economic and political new India in an anecdotal sort of way from a single woman's point of view," Anita said.
The Gen Next in "new India", observed Anita, "was not the smoking, drinking and casual sex type. The values were changing fast with the growing middle class who were allowing their women and daughters to work alone in outstation bases and new cities."
And literature is reflecting it, she said.
Aspiring chick lit writer and Commonwealth prize winner for best short story Nirupama Subramanian, who is writing her first chick lit novel about a conservative Tamil Brahmin girl working alone in Mumbai, feels "girls with conservative upbringing can also have a good time". Her book is about the middle path they tread.
"In my book, which I hope to complete next year, the girl learns to adjust with the western-style corporate life in a multinational bank in Mumbai and finds true love in a serious colleague after an unhappy affair," Nirupama told IANS.
Men are always fascinated by the complexities of women and are interested to know how a single woman would like to lead her life, laughed Advaita Kala, the successful author of the chick lit novel "Almost Single".
"There is so much in India that has to change - especially the way women are treated," she said.
Abhijit Bhaduri, author of the newly released novel "Married, But Available", sums up: "Popular contemporary novels is fast becoming a slice of life - something that all people read, find more believable, possible and easy to understand."
"I have written about the joys and dilemmas that professionals face in the first 10 years of their working lives in my new book," he said.
(Madhusree Chatterjee can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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